Kevin Pietersen was in the nets at Lord's on Thursday, easing his way back into training as he continues his rehabilitation from the knee injury that has kept him out of cricket this season.
He was strolling around in his sunglasses, smiling and shaking hands with team-mates who were busy preparing for Friday's first one-day international against New Zealand. Alastair Cook was understandably happy to have Pietersen back, even if it has not come quite as soon as he would like.
"It's great news for England," Cook said. "He's practising first of all and it's encouraging that he's progressing well from that injury." Pietersen's grin was testament to the truth of Daniel Vettori's view that "the grind of cricket is the hardest bit. It's when you're away from the game that you start to appreciate how much you enjoy being a part of it." Vettori is expecting to take his place in the New Zealand team for the first time since the World T20 tournament last September, when he suffered a recurrence of an achilles injury. "I actually feel pretty rejuvenated for having had the break."
Cook could sympathise with that. He reckons that the two-day window between the Test series and this one-day series is the "quickest turnaround I can remember in my career". It is something he and his team-mates are used to from county cricket, he says, where one-day matches often follow four-day games. The secret is "making sure you are switched on to the challenge of one-day cricket, and making sure you have got your game plan in order for the change of format".
England play New Zealand three times in the next five days, with matches at Lord's, the Rose Bowl and Trent Bridge. Three days after that they play Australia at Edgbaston in their opening game of the Champions Trophy and then they have games against Sri Lanka and New Zealand, again, the following week.
The rush of fixtures makes the captain's job a little more complicated than it might have been. Cook said that there were a couple of players suffering with slight injuries, because "this has happened so quickly, and there's always a couple of things flying around after a Test match". He declined to say exactly who was suffering with what, his insistence on letting nothing slip doing little to improve strained relations with the media after a week in which he was criticised for his captaincy in the Headingley Test. "We're just going to wait and see what happens over the next 24 hours," he said.
Tim Bresnan will be thinking something similar. His wife is due to give birth at some point in the coming week, so England have called up Jade Dernbach as cover. He is not part of the squad for the Champions Trophy, which would make it seem unlikely he will play.
But Cook thought otherwise. He was emphatic that his team are not treating these three fixtures as a warm-up for the more important competition. "There will be times this week when we are planning for the Champions Trophy," he said. "But it is very important as a side that we are looking at this series in isolation to try and win this series. They're not warm-up matches. We have to try and win as many games as we can."
England have not lost an ODI series at home since 2009, a record Cook is rightly proud of. With that in mind he said that, while England may experiment a little with their line-up, "it's unlikely that every member of the 15-man squad will get a game".
Vettori said New Zealand were taking the opposite view. "This is important for our preparations for the Champions Trophy," he said. "It is the best preparation we could possibly have, playing three ODIs here, and while we want to win, I think we're looking towards that Champions Trophy as well."
The team have lost Trent Boult because of a side strain but have been bolstered by the arrival of a handful of experienced players, like Nathan McCullum, James Franklin, Kyle Mills and Vettori.
The group played a warm-up match against a club team in Northampton earlier this week in which Vettori opened the batting and made 150, then took four wickets.
The wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi is another intriguing addition to the squad. The last time he played a one-day international was in 2008, when he was wearing the green and gold of Australia. Ronchi was born in New Zealand and moved back there four years ago.
If he is picked at Lord's, he will become the first man in history to play international cricket for both Australia and New Zealand, and the first itinerant to represent two Test-playing nations since Kepler Wessels turned out for South Africa 19 years ago after representing Australia.
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